I don't see dialysis as a hindrance. It's a normal part of life these days.
I don’t see dialysis as a hindrance. It’s a normal part of life these days.

The nurse took 4 alcohol pads and swabbed the catheter that was sticking out from my chest. She screwed in two long narrow plastic tubes into the catheter plugs, walked over to the machine and flipped it on.

I felt the blood draining out of my body, pumping through the dialyzer, and returning the blood back into me.

It was a surreal feeling to see your blood being cleaned of toxins and water. That was possible because my body was unable to do it anymore.

That was my introduction to living on dialysis.

May 7, 2016, marked the one year anniversary that I began kidney dialysis.

Normally, we don’t usually remember the exact day that we remember certain small moments, outside of major events.

I’m different. Dates are important to me. They are recorded history.

I haven’t ruminate about what has occurred over the past 12 months, and yet, it’s in the back of my mind every time when I ask myself, “Will I ever be normal again?” (Short answer: an emphatic “no.”)

Dialysis is a normal routine in my daily life now. But, those 7 days in the hospital going from worrying about a nagging flu to a life-threatening condition has become another part of my psyche:…

…survive.

All I have ever done is survive.

I survived my parents’ divorce, subsequent remarriages and divorces to other people. I also survived and live with diabetes, the threat of being blind, unemployment, and depression.

Living life, to me, is a bonus. Getting to that place requires a lot of trudging through mud.

Over the last 12 months, I have survived cramps so debilitating, I couldn’t walk, a fistula that didn’t work, and battling cognitive and speech troubles.

Beyonce once sung about being a “survivor”, but even she would have a hard time understanding how the term “survivor” is not to be taken lightly.

Those factors would cripple someone who has never endured such a predicament. Honestly, I never spent any time dwelling on any of it.

I was too busy adapting to what ever I had to deal with.

What I have not done is “mourn.” Mourning is part of the grief process. Shocked, denial, bargaining, mourning, and acceptance. I skipped the first four and took acceptance.  The other four never applied to me. I can’t be too shocked about something I’m not in denial of or try to bargain with.

The acceptance came on the morning of May 6, 2015. My nephrologist walked into my hospital room and announced that I will need to start kidney dialysis. She was bracing herself for my reaction.

I showed no emotion.

“Okay, what are the steps I need to take and when do we get started?”

She was shocked on how calmly I said it, sans emotion. Two hours later, I was in the operating room, having an incision on my right jugular and a small hole on the left side of my chest for the catheter to be fitted in. The catheter, 18 inches long, easily slid inside my chest like spelunkers searching for diamonds in a cave.

I hastily wrote a post on the night before starting dialysis. I should have put more thought into it, but it was my way in letting everyone know what was going on…and privately hoping that no one would worry too much about me.

The reality was…I was alone and scared. I didn’t want to leave this world without someone by my side.

On May 7th, one year ago, as I was lying in bed getting dialysis, I spent most of that afternoon comforting everyone who visited me,  and not allowing anyone to comfort me.

I didn’t want to make it about me. I wanted people to learn and understand what those like me were facing. There are 100,791 people waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. The median wait on a kidney transplant list is 3.6 years (facts courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation). Every 14 minutes, someone is added to the list, while 13 people die waiting for a kidney.

Numbers don’t lie.

Mississippi River, facing north.
Most of the time, I walk along the river to “mourn” and to mentally refocus on my “new” life.

I am struggling with mourning the loss of the “old” me. I haven’t mourn the losses that I have had personally.

I am mourning the loss of not being able to work, to be away from the things I was involved in, and being successful.

Most of my friends, over the past year, ended up with new or better jobs, went on great vacations, engaged or gotten married, or got to experience something. I celebrate those successes. I also empathize and mourn the losses my friends have had.

“Starting over” is a hell of task to take on, especially when you feel like you have been starting over from scratch several times in your life.

Starting a “new” life and burying the “old” one is what we hate to do…unless we are forced to. It is tough for me to be acclimated in a new city, finding people to interact with, and immerse yourself in a community.

But, this is what I face. It’s being adaptable in situations where you may not have control of…even if that means controlling your body.

I am going to try to “mourn”, whatever that entails. I’m not sure if I should cry, or let sadness cover me until it goes away. A good friend of mine once said about having bad days “embrace those bad days, it helps us appreciate and take advantage of our better days.”

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